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On This Date in Sports February 20, 1988: What Would Brian Boitano Do?

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Brian Boitano wins the Gold Medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, beating rival Brian Oser of Canada. Effectively tied at the end of the short program, Boitano skated a technically perfect program, highlighted by a prolonged spread eagle, which lasted ten seconds. Oser’s routine was nearly strong with the home crowd edge but had one technical flaw, leading the judges to favor Boitano for the Gold, while Victor Petrenko won the Bronze Medal.


Born on October 22, 1963, in the Bay Area of California, Brian Boitano first arrived on the scene in 1978 when he won the Bronze Medal at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. In 1982, he became the first American to land a triple axel and was primarily a jumper early in his career. Boitano made his first Olympic appearance in 1984 at the games in Sarajevo. That year fellow American Scott Hamilton won the Gold Medal, while Boitano finished fifth.

Over the next four years, Brian Boitano and Brian Oser of Canada, who won the Silver Medal in 1984, battled for supremacy on the ice. In 1986 Boitano won the World Championship, with Oser finishing second. In 1987, Oser took the top spot with Boitano in second place, setting the stage for their showdown in Calgary. Billed the “Battle of the Brians,” the competition was tight throughout in the 1988 Winter Games, as they were virtually tied at the end of the short program with Oser holding a slim lead which meant whoever won the free skate would win the Gold Medal.

Brian Boitano skated a program demonstrating the five stages of a soldier. His program was technically flawless, as he landed eight triple jumps and a prolonged spread eagle. Brian Oser was nearly as good performance-wise, but he stepped out of his line upon landing, which deducted his technical score. When it came time to tabulate the scores, this misstep was the difference as the judges favored Boitano 5-4 for the Gold Medal. Brian Oser settled for the Silver Medal with Victor Petrenko of the Soviet Union winning the Bronze Medal.

The two would battle one more time in the 1988 World Championships, with Brian Boitano winning the Gold Medal over Brian Oser again before turning professional and leaving the competitive figure skating circuit.